Under African Skies (2012)
Under African Skies (2012)
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Critic Reviews for Under African Skies
The result is doubly satisfying: We get not only a trenchant political drama but a bang-up concert film as well.
The affection between the musicians and Simon is clear. The portrait that emerges time and again is personal and a reflection of the realities of apartheid.
[It] does an excellent job of recapitulating the controversies surrounding the album's creation without bearing down too heavily on old news, while subtly taking Mr. Simon's side against his critics.
It's a pleasant surprise that Under African Skies not only draws attention to the controversy surrounding its subject matter but digs into it a little.
A harmonious, fair-minded, energetic and enlightening portrait of one masterpiece's moment in time.
Audience Reviews for Under African Skies
I have to admit. This album means a lot to me. It came out just before I went to live for 6 1/2 years in Lesotho, a country completely surrounded by South Africa. So I have a strong bias. But I think it covered the history and controversy surrounding the album well. It was interesting seeing all of this with 25 years of hindsight. I do wish, though, they had more of the live performances though. It seemed we mostly just got little bits and pieces. But still definitely a movie worth seeing if you're interested in Paul Simon, apartheid South Africa, and/or African or world music!
Undeniably, Paul Simon's 'Graceland' is one of the most widely accepted albums of the 20th century, not only because of its powerful funk rhythms, vocals, and cutting-edge production - it was also the legacy of apartheid and the 'political storm' that threatened to tear it down that brought the warmth and emotion of the people 'behind the music' streaming forth from the album. Under African Skies channels that story through international 'pop' critics and fans, documenting the unease that Graceland inhabited at the beginning, capturing that perfect mix where all the tensions from the people in the studio rise to a perfect boiling point and the human spirit 'bubbles' over with an unbridled enthusiasm to invoke individualism and freedom instead of rage and resentful attitudes. While the sacrifices Paul Simon's South African counterparts have to endure once they fully commit to the project isn't as detailed as I would have liked, the musicians still speak with a generous tone and a heart full of stories that are stolidly vivid and relevant in their minds, bodies, and especially, their souls. Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones, and a whole arsenal of the best South African musicians you'd never know lend their commentary and paint the reality, controversy, and metaphysical HAPPINESS they carried with them while recording and touring on this off-the-charts album experience. Highly Recommended.
If you have the chance, take an opportunity to check out the incredible documentary from director Joe Berlinger that chronicles how Paul Simon defied a United Nations boycott to record an album in South Africa during apartheid. That album of course was his landmark 1985 release Graceland. Over two decades later Simon's genius is still on display in a rip-roaring reunion concert held last year with the South African musicians he recorded the album with, all the while raising provocative questions about artistic freedom versus political morals. Under African Skies works as a cultural milestone, laced with amazing music and held together by a core theme of the power of art to heal and implement change.
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